Basically, a good old boy policechief and judge in
East Podunk Bay Minette, Alabama have decided that they have the right to tell people to go to church or go to jail:
A new alternative sentencing program offering first-time, nonviolent offenders a choice of a year of church attendance or jail time and fines is drawing fire from the American Civil Liberties Union as well as national attention, officials said Friday.
“This policy is blatantly unconstitutional,” said Olivia Turner, executive director for the ACLU of Alabama. “It violates one basic tenet of the Constitution, namely that government can’t force participation in religious activity.”
But the local police chief who is heading up the program starting Tuesday called “Restore Our Community” says no one is being forced to participate.
“Operation ROC resulted from meetings with church leaders,” Bay Minette Police Chief Mike Rowland said. “It was agreed by all the pastors that at the core of the crime problem was the erosion of family values and morals. We have children raising children and parents not instilling values in young people.”
Rowland said the idea was simple: get people who are not yet hardened criminals to become involved in positive programs — hundreds of free resources offered by some 104 churches in the region with 56 agreeing to help monitor first-time, nonviolent offenders. Under the program, pastors would report weekly to the chief and offenders in the program would bring a signed sheet to prove they attended church.
They would also have to answer some questions about the services, Rowland said. And the offenders who voluntarily choose church over jail get to pick the churches they attend. If they complete a year’s attendance, Rowland said, their criminal case would be dismissed.
Here’s the kicker:
“The biggest question or complaint we have had is about separation of church and state,” Rowland said. “Those issues won’t come to the forefront because the offenders are not being forced to attend church, and what religion they choose is really up to them. We even have provisions for people who are from out of town to choose a place to worship in their own communities.”
Of course they aren’t forced to go to church, they have a choice, it’s just that the alternative is prison. Just like people weren’t forced to confess to witchcraft, they had a choice, it’s just that the alternative is being drowned or crushed under stones.
I’m thinking of going there and founding a “Pagan, atheist, secular humanist, free love Church of Saccharomyces cerevisiae,” and seeing if I can get some of these folks to attend my church.